Survey reveals women face bias obstacles in advancing to leadership roles in education

Gender bias and discrimination inhibit the advancement of women in the superintendency and other high-level educational leadership positions, according to the inaugural Insight Survey conducted by Women Leading Ed, a national organization of women in education leadership.

Approximately 82% of respondents to the survey stated that they have experienced external pressure to conform to certain gender expectations in terms of their appearance, speech, or behavior — with such pressures being particularly magnified for women of color. The study, unveiled on Tuesday, revealed that 55% of women of color frequently encountered this pressure, in comparison to 36% of their White counterparts.

Julia Rafal-Baer, CEO of Women Leading Ed, remarked, “It has become so deeply ingrained and accepted that it has become akin to wallpaper or ambient noise. The survey findings reveal the minimal progress that has actually been made despite some women gaining entry to top leadership positions. While we may be present in the same spaces, women are still expected to adhere to different standards.”

The survey, which involved over 110 female participants, took place between November 2023 and January 2024. Among the key findings:

  • 95% of women superintendents believe they have had to make sacrifices that their male counterparts did not.
  • 57% indicated that they were passed over for promotional opportunities in favor of male colleagues.
  • 53% reported experiencing gender-based influences during salary discussions or negotiations.
  • Out of the 60% who contemplated leaving their positions due to work-related stress, 75% pondered about it on a daily, monthly, or weekly basis.

Furthermore, the survey highlighted that women who transitioned to principals were frequently guided towards roles in elementary or middle schools, with only 18% receiving preparation and offers for roles as high school principals.

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